Twelve years ago, as Hurricane Katrina was wreaking havoc on New Orleans, I briefly turned this blog into a homemade, manually updated aggregator of storm-related blogs and other websites—the first such page, so far as I know, ever to be created. It attracted wide attention and was viewed throughout the world.
To revisit that short-lived exercise in citizen journalism is, as I recalled last year, is a strange experience:
I sound like a whiskery old ham-radio operator reminiscing about the marvels of Morse code. It’s easy to forget that blogging was still revolutionary in the days of Katrina….Nowadays, of course, it would never have occurred to me to turn this site into a “stormblog.” Twitter and Facebook long ago superseded blogs as the medium of choice for snap responses to the news of the day.
I’m leaving Hurricane Irma to Twitter and to the professionals—but I’m paying even closer attention to what they have to say. The reason for my particular attention is that Mrs. T and I spend part of each winter in Florida and have good friends and colleagues who live in several of the cities about which you’ve been reading of late. Not only is Billy and Me, my new play, set to open on December 8 in West Palm Beach, where I spent a month last year directing Satchmo at the Waldorf, but I’ve come in recent years to think of Sanibel Island, to which Irma paid a visit on Sunday, as something of a second home. Mrs. T and I have spent countless hours strolling up and down its shelly beaches, eating in its cozy restaurants, and sitting on the back porch of the beach bungalow that we rent each January, gazing contentedly at the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder what that bungalow looks like today.
I can only begin to imagine the feelings of my Florida friends, some of whom toughed out Irma and the rest of whom fled her capricious wrath as best they could. I reached out to them by e-mail last week, and started hearing back from them last night. My heart aches for them all.
Mrs. T and I have been on the move since Saturday, seeing shows in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Nevertheless, we are much preoccupied with Florida, and I have no doubt that we will remain so for some time to come. It is, of course, too soon to say what effect, if any, the coming of Irma will have on the Palm Beach Dramaworks premiere of Billy and Me. I already know, however, that Hurricane Harvey has forced a change in the schedule for the Alley Theatre’s Houston production of Satchmo at the Waldorf, which will open a week earlier than originally planned, on February 23. We hope to be there anyway, and come November we also expect to be down in West Palm Beach, rehearsing Billy and Me.
Where we’ll go from there remains to be seen. We were planning to spend Christmas on Sanibel, something we’ve never done before, then see shows in Coral Gables, Fort Myers, Jupiter, Miami, Naples, Orlando, and Sarasota. All that now rests in the hands of the gods, whose recent behavior reminds me of Gloucester’s terrible outburst in King Lear: As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods./They kill us for their sport. May they prove to have treated the people of Florida more mercifully than Gloucester and the willful king he loved and served.
To all our friends down there, Mrs. T and I send all the love we have in us. You are not far from our minds.
UPDATE: Bill Hayes, Palm Beach Dramaworks’ artistic director and the director of Billy and Me, tells me that the theater survived Hurricane Irma intact.
Sanibel Island also appears to have escaped significant damage. As for our bungalow, it got through the storm without a scratch.